View Full Version : Open-Ended Rebuilding Dooms Pallone's Fisheries Bill (HR 5425)

12-18-2008, 12:04 PM
Open-Ended Rebuilding Dooms Fisheries Bill
By Michael Flaherty
December, 2008

I am writing in response John Geiser’s article found in the November 8, 2008 issue of the Asbury Park Press entitled, “Fisheries Need More Flexibility”.

In this article the Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), Jim Donofrio, expressed disappointment that no one in the United States Senate has come on board with fishery "flexibility" legislation introduced by Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ)

The RFA then took the opportunity to blame other recreational organizations for that lack of support. As Donofrio put it, "The trouble is we've got groups out there who should be supporting us - like the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association - who are not working with us."

It may come as a surprise to readers of the Asbury Park Press, but the truth is that the RFA’s position on rebuilding depleted fisheries is demonstrably out of touch with the vast majority of the mainstream recreational fishing community nation-wide. Frankly, this is why many in the recreational community are not working with them on so-called “flexibility legislation”.

That might also help explain why RFA membership dues are down almost 20% according to the most recent IRS filings – despite the sensationalism surrounding this latest campaign.

When one looks beyond the industry organizations and newspapers headquartered in or near New Jersey, the consensus is clear among many of the more objective fishing organizations and publications available.

In addition to the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association, there has been a growing cast of angler groups and key leaders who are publicly scratching their heads as to how any organization purporting to represent recreational fishermen would support this legislation as a positive thing for their members.

United Anglers of Southern California, is the West Coast’s largest marine sport-fishing association. As its President, Tom Raftican, put it, “For decades we have rightfully hammered commercial interests for pursuing this same course of action where such demands for “flexibility” have consistently proved far more damaging in the long run.”

Then there is Dave Preble from Rhode Island. Mr. Preble is the author of four books on recreational and commercial fishing and a sitting member of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). He has publicly described the legislation that the RFA is championing as “shortsighted” and a “sham”.

Rip Cunningham is another sitting member of the NEFMC and an editor of Saltwater Sportsman Magazine, which is probably the most widely circulated recreational publication in America. He characterizes those who are backing this flexibility legislation as “extreme” and notes that instead we need the type of legislation that won’t “undermine the years of effort that have been put into building a workable, admittedly not perfect, fishery management system”.

Sport Fishing Magazine publisher, Doug Olander, has also been openly outspoken against flexibility legislation. In the pages of that national magazine he essentially characterizes it as a bad joke.

The bottom line is that Rep Pallone’s bill doesn’t have much support among the recreational fishing community because informed fishermen understand that it would allow for open-ended rebuilding schedules. That would certainly spell perpetual limbo for many recreationally important fisheries that haven’t finished rebuilding yet.

If anyone doubts that, then simply ask the Congressman or any of the supporters of his bill to explain what the maximum rebuilding timeframe would be under his bill for specific species currently under a rebuilding plan.

For example, under current law Gulf of Maine Cod are in a 10 year rebuilding plan and must be rebuilt by 2014. Georges Bank Cod is under a 20 year rebuilding plan and must be rebuilt by 2026. Summer Flounder is under a 13 year rebuilding plan and must be rebuilt by 2013. When would these species need to be rebuilt by under rep Pallone’s flexibility legislation? It is a fair question. Unfortunately, no one can answer it.

In fact, when I asked this very question of Mr. Donofrio back in May of this year. His response in part was, and I quote, “I don’t owe you any explanation”.

With that kind of approach, is it any wonder that many groups are not working with the RFA on this issue?

Author's note: The above response was the original one prepared for submission to the Asbury Park Press. Upon learning the APP limit was 250 words, it had to be considerably shortened before being sent on 11/21/2008. The APP then reduced it further still and published it on December 2, 2008. That version may be found at...


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